As 2011 was wrapping up, I spent a lot of time thinking through all the things that happened during the year. I remembered the moment when Dad pulled my family into his room at the nursing home, asking us to close the door and telling us he was ready for hospice - he was ready to die. He had had such a rough couple months, I had taken to carrying a notebook in my purse where I could keep track of phone numbers and conversations with doctors. When Dad made his announcement, I remember pulling out that notebook, breathing deeply and trying not to cry. He told me what he wanted and I took notes. I wanted to honor his request by accepting it and following through on his instructions to the letter.
One day while Dad and I were home together (hospice came to the house for several days before a bed opened for him at a facility), one of his sisters-in-law called to check on him while he was sleeping. She is a very sweet woman, and I appreciated that she and her husband were checking on Dad and I. During the conversation, though, she said they just couldn't understand why Dad was "giving up." I felt this fierce, protective instinct kick in and told her that was not at all what this was. Dad said he was expecting that attitude from some people and I wanted to shield him from it by any means necessary.
Where did I learn that? At what point did I decide that it was more important to honor a dying man's wishes than to argue with him to keep fighting? I was not at all ready to let him go, but without consciously thinking about it, I set aside what I wanted to do what he asked. Maybe it was just the devotion of an only child - a daughter - for her father. Would I have done the same for my mother, with whom I had a more contentious relationship? Considering how quickly my father drifted away, I feel like this was one thing I absolutely got right. I feel like I honored Dad by accepting his choice about hospice and facilitating that transition for him. But I still wonder where I learned this - where I developed a philosophy of death and dying.